26th March 2000
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Kala Corner - by Dee Cee

Lester very much in the news
Lester James Peries continues to be in the news. It was only the other day that a rare honour came his way when he was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the International Film Festival in Delhi. It coincided with him completing half a century in film-making. Less than a fortnight ago, a collection of some of his early articles came out in print. Rupavahini also holds a Felicitation Festival of his films every Saturday.

'Soliloquy', the first film he made while a journalist in London along with Hereward Jansz, a freelance photographer, 50 years ago was judged among the best of the year in the Amateur Cine World competition. "It would be hypocritical modesty to deny that we are proud of our first movie. Film-making being a co-operative endeavour its success has been due to good teamwork of an unusual kind in that no one in our unit was paid a cent for his services," Lester wrote in 1950 in the article 'The Making of a Movie'. Lester's writing capabilities come out pretty well in the recently released 'Collected Works' compiled by freelance journalist and film critic Piyasena Wickramage and published by Bhadraji Foundation. The compiler has classified the articles under the headings - 'Birth of a Film-maker', 'On Cinema and Cinema Creations', 'International Cinema' and 'Tributes to Maestros'. He has also included a Bibliography. 

In an introduction to the book, Sunila Abeysekera describes how Lester, with a sense of humour, dry wit and warmth of intimate recollection, takes his reader with him in his walk through the past. "The book also offers interesting insights into Lester's appreciation of world cinema. His reminiscences of film festivals, his sensitivity to the evolution of different cinema genres in different social and economic contexts, his particular sensitivity to the cinema of new and struggling countries and film-makers combine to give the reader the impression of Lester as a man who has explored the world and understood it through this favoured and chosen art form, the cinema," says Sunila.

Buddhist text for children
A rare book in children's literature - a Buddhist text has just been released. Titled Ape Budu Hamuduruwo, it is an attempt by Damayanthi Jayakody to present the virtues of the Buddha in simple language to children. 

Publisher Dayawansa Jayakody says the style of writing will help a child to grasp the qualities of the Buddha and His teachings. 

Serasinghes in early films
How many of us can remember that the Serasinghes - Iranganie and Winston - played key roles in the early Lester James Peries films? In Rekava, Iranganie (playing her maiden film role most convincingly) was the village mother with a son the villagers thought was possessed. Winston was the village landowner who got played out by tricksters who grabbed his money on the pretext of curing his ailing son. That was in 1956. Ten years later, Lester picked them for Delovak Atara, a story involving two wealthy families in the city. Winston was the golf playing father of the girl (Jeevaranie Kurukulasooriya) engaged to be married to the only son (Tony Ranasinghe) of another rich family. The boy's mother was Iranganie. Film fans now have the chance of enjoying these early films telecast every Saturday night over Rupavahini in a Felicitation Festival in honour of Lester. 
Interesting & meaningful
Young Kumar de Silva 's special edition of 'Bonsoir', the weekly magazine programme telecast over ITN, on Sinhala cinema, was interesting. Though it was basically interviews with four key personalities in the industry today - Lester James Peries, Prasanna Vitanage, Joe Abeywickrema and Nita Fernando - he presented them in an interesting way. The manner in which he had edited the programme inter-cutting the interviews with episodes from Vitanage's award winning films, Purahanda Kaluwara and Pavuru Valalu made it more meaningful. 

A little excitement and sweaty palms are good for exams

By Ruhanie Perera
Music, they say, is the language of the soul. And the master of the language will always have an audience wherever he goes. But even the master gets to the pinnacle only after years of hard work. 

Over the years institutions have evolved to encourage students of music to become great masters. The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music is one of them. The Associated Board has celebrated over 100 years of excellence in Sri Lanka and this year Mano Chanmugam has taken over its representation from Olga de Livera, who has just relinquished her duties.

Mr. Chanmugam who is all too aware of the critics is determined to ensure that "parents and teachers will inspire the students to take the Associated Board's examinations, since exams improve the calibre of the student."

The Associated Board's exams are held twice a year and can be taken in Colombo, Kandy, Galle and Ratnapura. Meetings between teachers and examiners will also be held to show the teachers their support. Mr. Chanmugam feels distance can make teachers feel isolated and that feeling is what he intends to dispel.

Christopher Moore, an examiner for over 20 years, is in Sri Lanka these days. Speaking to him, not as a student seated at the piano with butterflies in her stomach, I realised examiners are not the monsters students imagine them to be. 

In fact, Mr. Moore, who has an intimidating list of qualifications after his name - Fellow of the Royal College of Organists and the Trinity College of Music, holder of the LRAM Diploma in Pianoforte Teaching, an Honorary Fellow of the Guild of Church Musicians and holder of The Archbishop of Canterbury's Diploma in Church Music remembers all too well the times he used to get nervous. 

He feels that "it helps to be a little on the edge, as the excitement comes through in the pieces". Some students communicate it better than others. 

Both Mr. Chanmugam and Mr. Moore understand that today people tend to shy away from Royal College music exams because they are thought to be too difficult. But examiner Moore points out that it's a misconception. "Standards are high, there is no denying that, but they are attainable." They are set after taking into consideration the average marks from all over the world. 

Music exams are "an educational tool" very much like any school exam. They are not a competition, which is yet another misconception. There will always be some who are good performers at exams who will always have openings in the music world. However, the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music feels that even those who struggle through need encouragement. That is why the examiners make sure that they comment on each performance.

"Our comments are always constructive - so that the candidates don't feel discouraged and can work on their weak points," says Mr. Moore.

Both pianists think of exams as a chance to give joy to a person. Something to "get so much pleasure from just learning the art", not a nerve-wracking exercise.

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